Is Mercury in Retrograde? Here's the Actual Science Behind the Phenomenon


Yes, Mercury is in retrograde for the next couple weeks. No, it's not the cause of all your problems.

You should not avoid starting new projects. "Mercury Retrograde misunderstandings" are not really going to disrupt your life. You don't need to be wary of "computer malfunctions, lost luggage [and] invalid documents." Ignore all of that horoscope crap. 

Retrograde just means Mercury will appear to slow down and change directions because Earth is catching up to and passing the planet. Retrograde, from the Latin "retrogradus," literally means "spin backward."

Think of it like cars driving on a highway. When you speed up and pass a car, a weird illusion makes it look like that car is reversing. In reality, you're just zooming past it. The same is happening with Earth and Mercury right now. Retrograde is a normal part of planetary science, and it happens to all planets.

There is one event that's worth freaking out about, because it's awesome. On Monday, May 9, you'll get to get to see the dark shadow of Mercury as it passes between the Earth and the sun.

Mercury will glide in front of the sun at 7:12 a.m. Eastern on May 9, according to NASA. It'll reach the halfway point around 10:47 a.m., and then pass beyond the sun at about 2:42 p.m. The whole transit will take about 7.5 hours. 

This rare occurrence happens only about 13 times each century, according to NASA. It takes Mercury only 88 days to orbit the sun, but it rarely aligns with Earth and the sun because its orbital axis is a little more titled than Earth's. Mercury usually passes in front of the sun above or below our line of sight from Earth. 

How to see it: You'll need a telescope or binoculars fitted with a solar filter (since you'll be staring straight at the sun). If you don't have access to any of that, NASA will host a livestream during which experts will answer questions.

So on May 9, just enjoy Mercury's rare transit and put down the horoscopes. You'll be fine.